MoH launches 3-year anti-smoking campaign

Peer pressure and perception are key factors that has resulted in 35% of UAE’s youth to light up a cigarette at least once before aged 10, as per the health ministry’s last survey

In a crackdown on cigarette smoking amongst UAE’s youth, the Ministry of Health has rolled out a three-year campaign to butt out this bad habit with the ‘Be Smart, Don’t Start’ initiative to coincide with World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

Even as results of the 2012-2013 Global Youth Survey are awaited by the ministry, the latest figure indicate that at least 25 per cent of youngsters who participated in the study across the UAE admitted to lighting up once or more before the age of 10 in 2002.

That number sharply increased to 35 per cent in 2005.

To target the youth in this new campaign, the ministry has teamed up with Sheikh Majid bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7,  Minister of Health Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al Owais, said: “There are one billion smokers around the world today, each averaging around 20 smokes a day. Can you even image the dark cloud of smoke they create in the atmosphere?

“The research is even grimmer when you look at statistics that indicate that every eight seconds, someone dies as a direct or indirect result of smoking. So while we chat, at least two people have died of smoking.”

Al Owais said that the UAE is part of this global community that is facing such a health epidemic.

“In 2002, the youth survey had indicated that 25 per cent of youth here had smoked a cigarette more than once before the age of 10 years,” he said. “Within three years, the number increased by 10 per cent. We knew we had to launch a campaign that would curb such alarming growth.”

Targeting youngsters through their schools and universities, the government initiative will see MoH representatives hold modules in various institutions that will tackle the common issues that push youngsters into picking up this habit at a young age.

Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, who is heading the tobacco-control team at MoH, said: “It’s a three-step process, first by actually teaching kids about the types of tobaccos and the dangers they cause in their lives.

“The second step will teach them how to say no to smoking and not give in to peer pressure, which is one of the top reasons why children pick up cigarettes in the first place.”

Al Maidoor added that understanding media content was the third element, where children will be taught that what they see in films and on TV with actors smoking is not something that should be caught on as a cool thing to follow.

For the campaign, the MoH has also teamed up with Dubai Police’s Al Ameen Service, along with various other government institutions.

Al Maidoor also added that a new law is currently with the Federal National Council, UAE which will outlaw parents from lighting up in cars with children, along with groceries not allowed to sell cigarettes within a set radius to schools.

Earlier this week, Dubai Municipality also announced that no cigarettes and tobacco products will be sold for 24 hours in Dubai on May 31.

Notices put up in grocery stores in the emirate by the civic body state: “As part of the World No Tobacco day Dubai Municipality, in cooperation with retail shops in the city, will stop the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products on Friday May 31 in all its branches over the emirate of Dubai.”

The UAE has its own anti-tobacco law. Since January 1, all cigarettes and other tobacco products which do not carry a graphic health warning on packs have been banned in the UAE.

Last year, the statistics released by the MoH, in cooperation with other health authorities, revealed that the percentage of cigarette consumers was 18.3 per cent among males and 0.4 per cent among females on 1995 which reached 28.1 per cent among male adults and 2.4 per cent female adults on 2003.

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